Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No-one becomes a disciple by accident
Dallas Willard

Following Jesus simply means learning from him how to arrange my life around activities that enable me to live in the fruit of the Spirit”
John Ortberg

The reason there is this page on discipleship is this: As members of St Michaels we simply want to be Jesus’ disciples… to grow to be like him… to learn from him how to live. We believe that it is not possible to be a ‘Christian’ and not be a disciple of Jesus – the words mean the same thing… and we are determined to shape our lives in such a way as to make this possible. And that means that we engage in ‘disciplines’ – practices that help us to more naturally think and act as Jesus would in our situation.

Disciples do simple things – they copy the mater – they are apprentices… and so we try to learn from Jesus how to live because we believe that he had words which were full of life.

That’s why we pray
That’s why we study
That’s why we have just started up some Download the Formation Group Booklet
That’s why we meet regularly together in small groups
That’s why we have a day off each week
That’s why we worship God together on Sunday each week
That’s why we break bread
That’s why we sometimes go on retreats or fast
That’s why we give

These are some of the disciplines we have chosen to adopt to help us in our walk with God… this is the way we live…

What discipleship means to us
When Jesus was around he called people to follow him… and people left everything to do so. That’s quite something… I mean he really must have been quite something – you don’t just give up your day job for anyone! It is clear that Jesus was magnetic and people wanted to be with him – to follow him… But some of those who followed him were also called Disciples. Discipleship is not simply watching someone or admiring them or being a fan – its more than that – it’s wanting to become like the person… because you think that everything they do and say is the best way to be…

In Jesus’ day, Rabbi’s taught people and passed on advice and teaching about how to live well under God. People listened to them. From the age of six children would got to school and rabbis would teach them the scriptures which they would memorise and as the children grew older the Rabbis would teach them how to make sense of it all. Some of the best students would become the Rabbi’s ‘talmidin’ (disciple) and follow them around trying to learn from them everything they could about how to live… and the teaching they gave was called their ‘yoke’. It tied you to the rabbi and meant that you lived like them.

Jesus was a Rabbi and he too had a yoke. He said it was easy. His disciples followed him around.

If we are to trust Jesus with our lives – the first step will be to accept that he was smart…

Dallas Willard says this

“Here is a profoundly significant fact. In our culture, and among Christians as well, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as “well-informed,” “brilliant,” or “smart.”

Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is taken as a mere icon, a wraith-like semblance of a man living on the margins of the “real life” where you and I must dwell. He is perhaps fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, but little more.

But can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what Christian’s take him to be in other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all: the smartest person who ever lived, bringing us the best information on the most important subjects.

What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment-to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously taken to be a person of great ability. But what then can devotion or worship mean, if simple respect is not included in it.

Disciples of Jesus thought he was smart

So, for example – let’s take prayer… Jesus prayed and his disciples watched and learned… they were impressed with him – not just at how he prayed but how effective his life was and how at ease he was in every situation. And in time they became desperate to learn from him how to pray… and so they asked him… but he did not send them on a prayer course… he did not give them a book… he simply asked them to follow him and watch.

The first thing they did was watch and they watched him pray… they listened to him pray and they saw the results of his prayer… they saw him go off alone and saw him talk to his father when he was on the go. Then they asked him if he could teach them what he obviously knew and Jesus gave them a very powerful and rich prayer to use – “if you want to pray, pray this: Our Father in heaven…

We still pray that prayer today… we use it as a discipline

Disciplines are something we can do!

We have to understand that disciplines are not beyond us… precisely the opposite – they are within our reach! This is really important! Because many of us feel that we can’t do disciplines… they are too hard… they are beyond us. But this is not so… or if it is, we are trying to do a discipline that is too hard and ambitious for us…

Here is my advice… only do a discipline you can do…

Take running for example – something I can, in theory, do. Let’s say I decide to get fit and I decide that to accomplish this I will go jogging each day. What will happen? What do you predict? Let me tell you what will happen. Day one I will buy some new clothes… this will be exhausting but very satisfying… after all it is impossible to get fit without the latest sports fashions… Day two I will set my alarm for 45 minutes before I normally wake up. I will not go to bed 45 minutes earlier the night before… I will simply do with less sleep – sleep is for unfit lazy people and I am going to get fit! In the morning the alarm will scream at me and my body will scream at my alarm… I will hit the snooze button for my body is not at all ready to get up. The alarm will scream at me again and I will reluctantly get up. I will put on my new clothes and pretend to do some warming up exercises (for about 15 seconds). I will then rush out of the house and jog (something I haven’t done for 5 years) perhaps up the hill to Englishcombe lane. I will force myself to get to the top without stopping despite the fact that my lungs have packed in and my head has gone purple by the time I get to the Centurion Pub around the corner… all the time saying to myself that only wimps can’t run this far…

I will see one of you at the on the way and because the amount of sweat that I have produced and because of the colour of my face, I will hide… This helps me catch my breath… I will set off again around the block… I will run for a couple of strides and then break out into a strange kind of jog-walk-jog-walk thing – making it appear as if I am running while actually walking… I will do this for a while and then pick up the pace because I have just been over taken by a woman jogging past me… an older woman. I will run around the corner and as I catch a glimpse of my home I will do one of those last minute sprints for my door as if I am trying to win a race… and I will collapse… I will climb the stairs (no mean feat) and have a shower… and I will then get dressed wondering why my body continues to feel incredibly hot…

By lunch time my colour has become more normal and by evening my breathing has become more regular… I go to bed and fall asleep incredibly quickly for some reason… the next morning when the alarm screams at me 45 minutes early, I can’t believe that I forgot to alter it back again. I decide to go jogging for the second day in succession for surely this is how you get fit… I try to move… but I discover that my legs have been mysteriously set in concrete while I was asleep and I fall out of bed and end up on the floor… half an hour later I wake up again wondering where I am and why I am feeling cold… I make a decision to leave it for today but to go jogging again tomorrow… but tomorrow never comes.

Don’t do something you can’t do! A discipline is doing something you can currently do that will enable you to do something you can’t currently do. If you want to get fit begin by going for a walk… jogging will wait.

The same is true for spiritual disciplines… Don’t be ambitious… this is pride and foolishness. Do something you can definitely do.